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5 Easy Ways to Expand Your Sales

By Carol Roth

Reprinted with permission from MasterCardBiz.com

http://www.mastercardbiz.com/2015/01/28/5-easy-ways-to-expand-your-sales/

Virtually every small business owner that I speak to tells me that they want (or need) to get more sales. They are always looking for advice on easy or low-cost ways to help sell more of their products or services.

Selling is both an art and a science, and many small business owners struggle with it. Sometimes, the solution is as easy as removing roadblocks or switching up how you sell. With mobile payment systems allowing you to do business on the go, you can get new customers at events, pop-up shops, by co-marketing with other businesses, etc. Going to where your customer is already spending time really amps up sales.

There are ways that you can make it easier (and more likely!) for your prospects to become customers – and, hopefully, repeat customers. Here are a five easy ways to expand your sales:

1. Use the “tasting spoon” technique.

Like they do at your local ice cream shop, give people a taste to see how great your product or service is. If they like it, they’ll want to buy more. Can giving something away for free work? Absolutely. It helps you establish trust and credibility, and build a relationship with a prospect. Or you could use a low-cost “taste” of your service. Consultants do assessments to determine a prospect’s needs and demonstrate their thought leadership. Often, these assessments uncover small projects that then lead to bigger projects and a long-term relationship.

2. Give people just a few choices.

Make sure your customers can have the product or service the way they want, but don’t give them too many choices or, as many studies have shown, they will just walk away. How frustrating is it when you walk into a store for a simple item and there are 20 different versions? Unnecessary variations with few discernible differences will cause you to lose sales, not get more sales.

3. Don’t let payment get in your way.

Make it as easy as you can for your customers to pay you. The last thing you want is for a potential customer to get frustrated and walk away right as they were about to pay you. Think about it: how many times have you walked out when the line was slow or long, or a restaurant only accepted cash? Technology makes it easy and cost effective to accept payments with credit cards in person and online. Let people pay you however they want to!

4. Build trust with your customers.

Trust is hard to build and incredibly easy to lose. And once it’s lost, you very rarely get it back. Show your customers that you value their privacy. Ensure that you have secure systems and strong passwords in place to protect data. Assure prospects and customers that you never sell their data. And make sure that every employee and vendor knows and respects your policy.

5. Provide great customer service.

Never quote “company policy” to a customer. It makes them furious. Train every single member of your staff to listen to customer complaints and empower all employees to make small offers in order to make things right. Perhaps even put in place a policy of some amount, say $100 per order, that they can have discretion over without approval. Your fantastic response to a complaint can turn an angry customer into your biggest evangelist.

And here’s a bonus suggestion: Don’t forget to ask for the business. In a retail establishment, this is easier. You may be answering questions or reading the prospective customer’s body language, so you’ll know when the time is right to say, “May I take that to the register for you?” or “And how would you like to pay for that today?”

When you are selling professional services and you have answered questions and addressed objections to determine that there is a fit, prospects will want you to take the next step and offer to submit a proposal for the work or ask if they are ready to move forward. Small business owners are often afraid to be seen as pushy or sales-y. Don’t lose a sale because you forgot to ask for the business.

These tactics will make your product or service more enticing to your prospective customers and create a foundation upon which to build trust and credibility in your market. As a small business owner, you have the advantage of being able to modify your sales tactics more easily than a larger organization. Good luck and happy selling.

Cutting Costs without Sacrificing Your Brand

By Kathy McShane

Reprinted with permission from MasterCardBiz.com

http://www.mastercardbiz.com/2015/02/10/cutting-costs-without-sacrificing-your-brand/

Starting and maintaining a small business are not easy tasks, and female entrepreneurs know all too well the challenges they face.

While female entrepreneurship is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the business world – and increasingly contributing to the overall health of the U.S. economy – the owners of these small businesses also keep a careful eye on their bottom lines.

“Every small business owner I work with is looking for ways to cut costs,” says Kathy McShane, the CEO and founder of Ladies Launch Club. “It’s the nature of being a small business owner.”

Ladies Launch Club, based in New Canaan, Conn., provides guidance, support, education and exposure to women starting or growing their businesses.

“There are a number of ways to trim costs without sacrificing your reputation and your brand and they are fairly simple,” McShane says.

Female entrepreneurs can:

  • Cut advertising expenses by teaching a class or running a free workshop. This is an ideal way to get in front of the people who will have an interest in your products or services. The fact that they come to you gives you tremendous power.
  • Piggyback on other marketing initiatives that you already are doing, such as special offers on your social media, newsletters and other communications.
  • Leverage customers who have used your products and reaped great results. The most inexpensive ways are through LinkedIn; on your website, where you can feature happy customers; and placing photos of and complimentary comments by your clients in other communications.
  • Use the magic of YouTube, which can help you connect and develop a dialogue with new prospects by employing video to talk directly to them. YouTube, founded in 2005, is a “forum for people to connect, inform and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small,” according to its website, youtube.com. Also, it claims that “more than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month” and more than “6 billion hours of video are watched each month.” That’s a lot of exposure. An added benefit with YouTube is that is helps to increase your SEO, or search engine optimization.
  • Use social media, such as Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. Small business owners sometimes are uncomfortable using this approach, but their clients – and potential clients – expect companies to use social media. According to twitter.com, there are 284 million monthly active users and 500 million tweets sent each day. And more business owners are using Pinterest to grow their companies, according to its website. Be sure to choose the venues that your customers frequent, and keep in mind that not all social media outlets work for every business.
  • Be a guest on a talk show, whether it is on the radio or television. The exposure is an ideal way for people to get to know you and your business. And take into consideration that since a radio or television guest-speaking spot is not paid advertising, it tends to lend more credibility to you and your business. Post this on your website, You Tube and other social media outlets.
  • Save money on postage and printing. Postage and printing can be prohibitively expensive, and often does not lead to a great return on your investment.
  • Look for office space that rents out conference rooms so that you have this option available on an as-needed basis.

As business owners look to trim their expenses, McShane cautions that they “should never sacrifice customer service. This is the one area that will come back to haunt you. But practice the other tips for great savings.”

How to Create and Optimize LinkedIn Ads

By Lisa Raehsler

Reprinted with permission from MasterCardBiz.com

http://www.mastercardbiz.com/2014/10/15/how-to-create-and-optimize-linkedin-ads/

LinkedIn operates the largest professional network on the Internet, and the website makes it easy to advertise to its members. For small businesses with business-to-business clients or

professional customers, LinkedIn offers a cost-per-click advertising platform that provides access to their 313 million professional members.

LinkedIn’s text ad platform is “self-service” and recommended for advertisers with less than a $10,000 budget. The ad performance is similar to display ads, with LinkedIn noting click-through-rates of .025% on the low side and requiring performance optimization. To get started, here’s a guide to creating LinkedIn ads.

Strategy

Before digging in to your ad’s interface, take time to think through your strategy to design the most effective program. Determine your campaign objectives and how they will be measured. Your campaigns can be used for branding, driving traffic, generating leads and achieving other advertising goals.

Brainstorm different ways to reach your audience on this site. What job titles are they likely to hold? What professional groups are they members of? Develop a profile and determine the number of campaigns and desired micro-targeting details for each.

Creating Ads

The LinkedIn Campaign Manager takes you through four steps. First, create a new campaign, then create an ad. One campaign is composed of one or more ads. You can create several ad variations, and LinkedIn allows up to 15 variations. Keep in mind that all of these ads will share the same budget and bids, therefore, use this as a way to test creative approaches within the same campaign. When adding the second variation, you can “duplicate” the first variation, making it easy to enter the changes you want to test.

The ads are composed of a headline, description, ad destination and image.

Headline: 25 characters

Description: Up to 75 characters to span 2 lines

banner

The ad destination can be either a website, special landing page, or a page on LinkedIn, such as your company profile page.

Text for LinkedIn ads should be written in a compelling way with messaging that is consistent with your other marketing initiatives. Ads should include unique benefits and/or offer a call-to-action, such as “Shop Now” or “Free Download.” Ensure your ad copy supports your overall strategy.

Targeting Your Audience

During the second step, which is targeting, advertisers can select from several options:

  • Locations
  • Companies
  • Job title
  • School
  • Skills
  • Groups
  • Gender
  • Age

Each targeting option allows you to target all, select specific targets or exclude targets. For example, you could target the retail industry, but exclude a specific retailer.

As you narrow down your target audience, LinkedIn updates the number of members that fit your criteria.

As you select your targets, keep in mind that the total target audience selected in this step will determine the bid ranges in the next step.

Setting Campaign Budgets

The third step, Campaign Options, is where budget comes into play. Budgets are set at the campaign level for LinkedIn with a minimum of a $10 daily budget. Allocate your budget evenly between different campaigns at first, then reallocate depending on performance, allocating more budget to better performing campaigns. Keep in mind that LinkedIn allows up to 20% overages on your daily budget.

Next select how you want to pay. You have two options: cost-per-click or pay-per-thousand impressions (CPM). LinkedIn provides a “suggested bid range” for each. Typically branding campaigns are best run by impressions, and conversion-focused campaigns are best for cost-per-click.

Selecting a bid amount at the higher end of the range will ensure the ad is served more. Bidding low will not drive the cost per click lower and could stall the ad serving, because LinkedIn will always serve ads with higher bids.

Once you click “launch campaign”, the ad goes into review. The review process seems to take several hours, so prepare to do this during off-peak hours.

Once your campaign is approved, your business will start reaching new potential customers. Just remember: keep an eye on the performance of your ads, and optimize them from there.

Your LinkedIn Ad Checklist

  • What are your objectives?
  • What is your target audience’s profile? How can you reach them on this site?
  • Is your ad copy compelling? Does it include benefits and a call-to-action?
  • Have you tested ad variations?
  • Is your campaign budget allocation focused on the best performing campaigns?

Lisa Raehsler is the founder and principal strategist at Big Click Co., an online advertising company and Google AdWords Partner, specializing in strategy and management of SEM and PPC for search engines, display, retargeting, and social media ad campaigns. Lisa has led strategy on hundreds of PPC accounts and puts her experience into practice every day as a thought leader in integrating clients’ search campaigns across earned, owned, and other paid media. Lisa frequently lends her expertise to the search industry through organizational involvement, speaking, and writing. Lisa’s speaking engagements include SES, OMS, MIMA, HeroConf, and SMX conferences, as well as private and public events. As a columnist for ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, she writes on the topic of paid search.